Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Jinx Gene

I love Dan Savage. I know that the odds are good that he'd despise me if he ever met me, but I have been unwaveringly grateful for his existence since I first became aware of who he is. He's obnoxious and uncompromising and funny.

So when I recently read a book for book club that made me think about the nature of marriage, it was only natural to finally read Savage's The Commitment. I'm still only partway through it, but I knew he was a kindred spirit. He explains that a huge part of his reluctance to get married, even as gay marriage became legal here and there, was rooted largely in a superstition about joy that's rooted in his family's experience of Catholicism:
We share the jinx gene, my mother and I, although in her case it’s more explicitly Catholic. When your life is going along nicely, when things are looking good, the correct posture to assume is one of gratitude, absent of any hint that you expect your good fortune to last. It’s kind of a defensive crouch. Good Catholics don’t presume. The moment you start to expect things to continue going along nicely for you—the moment you begin to believe you’re worthy of the good things in your life—God gets all Old Testament on your ass and does something vicious, something insane, something totally uncalled for. He gives you lupus or He allows Satan to slaughter your children and cattle or He delivers Ohio to George W. Bush.
I have had this superstitious attitude for as long as I can remember. It has actively sabotaged relationships. One ex-boyfriend chastised me for saying something like, "if you're still around in November, we can...."

"If I weren't planning to be here in November, I wouldn't be here now, dammit," he'd say.
"I know, but you can't just say stuff like that in front of God."
"I didn't know you believed in God."
"I believe in God's ability to suddenly realize that in spite of life's efforts to make me totally crazy, I've found an awesome boyfriend who's in my kitchen making coffee and...oh my God, did you take out the garbage?"
"Yeah, well, last night there was fish, and I thought..."
"Ssssssssh! No one must ever know how happy you make me! You can never tell anyone, ever, ever, ever!"

Try as I might to explain my superstition, he never took it as the compliment it is. The more important something is, the more incredibly critical it is not to take it for granted, because then if it's rescinded you'll feel incredibly stupid. The more conversational immunization you get ("it might be nothing," "sure, he's nice, but who knows how long it will last" and "he seems perfect now, but I'm sure I'll be single by Christmas") the more fabulous the guy is.

This has several unfortunate results. First, the person in question starts to feel like he's dating a crazy person. Which, let's face it, ain't wrong. But it's not that I'm actually expecting the bad stuff. It's just that I'm certainly not going to start expecting the good stuff, because dude, don't you know the bad stuff considers that an engraved invitation? So far no one's cracked the code. Maybe another former Catholic is the answer, but Dan is the first guy I've ever heard of who gets it, and he's gay, taken, and, as I mentioned, would not like me much anyhow.

Second, if you believe that your intention has any effect on reality, I'm screwed for sure. I have friends at work who remind me of that all the time. "Katy, think positive." I am. In here where it's safe and no one can see me. I'm not nearly as cynical as it looks from the outside. But there's a lot to be said (although I think The Secret is BS) for committing to the life you want clearly, audibly, observably, and intentionally. If nothing else, other humans are often more than happy to help you, but they're a lot less likely to try to help a get-off-my-lawn curmudgeon who seems to second-guess every break she's ever gotten than to help someone who seems positively focused on their own future.

But I think the worst thing is that people--the people I care for the most--often have no idea how much they mean to me. I recently surprised a friend of mine by telling him I loved him (when someone's going in for surgery, the bad stuff pretty much already has its engraved invitation, so you get an automatic exemption to say what's on your mind). I'm not sure whether he was surprised that I cared--I hope not--but he was certainly flabbergasted to hear it. I'm glad the surgery went well and gave me a chance to fix this totally messed up dynamic.
Not that it'll be fixable. Like most things I'm sure it will stick around being a voice in my head that tells me not to be happy too loud, telling me I can't do things, telling me not to be too outspoken about my hopes and dreams. But I'm hoping that one of the dividends of age will be some ability to power through all that and act in accordance with my beliefs. And in the meantime, Dan Savage's voice is pretty loud, so maybe he can drown the other fuckers out once in a while.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Keeping me humble

Shifter here. So, let's face it, I'm not the kind of guy who needs all that much encouragement to stay humble. I hope. I mean, I run, but I run SLOW. I work, but I don't work as hard as many. I achieve, but if I wasn't so damn lazy I could achieve more. And I'm cool with that, with knowing my place in the scheme of things, or my lack of a place therein.

However, every now and then someone or something comes along to really help me stay humble. I run into somebody who is so freaking SMART that I can't even follow their train of thought. My daughter demolishes me at a game. Etc.

Today, yet another event occurred to help me stay as centered, down to earth, and self-effacing as I need to be. My brother in law, who until I talked him into it had never even done a marathon, finished his first 100 MILE ULTRA MARATHON today. I don't even know why they call it an ultra-marathon. Once you blow by 26.2 miles, and then triple or almost quadruple it, you shouldn't even mention "marathon." Marathons are a Sunday stroll when you're at that level. It's an "Ultra," plain and simple, but since people may want to ask you an "ultra - what?" you have to clarify that it's an Ultra Really Long Run, and for most sane people "Really Long Run" = marathon. But I digress.

The point is, here's Shifter, typing in awe. Nice going bro.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

See if you can figure this one out :o)

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011


Ok, book update. First off, for those of you who I imagine at one time read this, let me assure you that no, I am not still reading "Empire," although it was a very good book. In the 2 years since I put that up I've read a few other books. Currently I'm working on Neil Stephenson's REAMDE. If you have read any Stephenson books, at least any other than Snowcrash, you'll probably know that it is really hard to summarize what his books are about.

Take Cryptonomicon, my favorite of his. If I was to try to summarize it as I started reading it, I might say it was about an internet startup that was working to help establish a datahaven and nation-free currency. But I would have been wrong. Then a bit further into the book, I might have said it was about a World War 2 marine who got caught up in various secret missions during the war. Oh, and who was addicted to morphine. But I would have been wrong. Then I might have gotten to the part where I realized it was about finding and making use of an enormous trove of Nazi gold. And that would have missed a lot of the point. And on, and on, and on. So when someone asked me to describe REAMDE the other day, I sighed and then floundered around verbally for a few minutes and then said "it's about some high tech thriller type stuff" which is both true and a massive understatement.

So having said that, I'm certainly not going to try to summarize it here. There are people who are paid a lot of money to try to summarize complex novels in dust-jacket size bites, after all. If you want to read one of those blurbs, go to the link above. But I will say that I'm really enjoying it and it has many of the things that I really liked about Cryptonomicon and much less of the things that I really did NOT like about System of the World (which I really, truly, desperately WANT to like, and someday maybe I will, just not yet). Stephenson writes like a true tech guy who knows how to write, which is rare, and his plot this time is moving along briskly. I love that he knows the difference between Linux and Windows, and an EMACS file and a .docx file, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I only sort of understand but don't have to get to know what is happening. I also love that twice tonight while reading I had to use the dictionary feature of my Nook to figure out a word and one meant lesbian (Sapphist). What more can I ask for?

So to sum up, highly recommended unless you want very light reading.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A useful little website

If you're even wondering about "area under the curve" for a normal curve, what "1 standard deviation above the mean" means, or anything like that, or what a Z score (standard score) of 2.3 really means, this website is really very helpful. It's nothing earth shattering, and in fact you can calculate everything it tells you by hand, or look it up in the tables in the back of just about any textbook on stats, but it's just a nifty and convenient way to get the info quickly. There are some certified geeks, I mean other than me, who I imagine could read this, so I thought I'd share with all our imaginary readers :o)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Work slogans

I had put this together a month ago but forgot to post it. So here it is, better late than never (or maybe not, depends on how bad it is, right?)

There are various reasons why I don't announce where I work. Some of them are even valid! It's not like I work for a top secret agency where, if I blogged about it, I'd have to kill everyone (but that would be cool!) but in general, if one wants to whine about work, probably best not to say which work place one is whining about, right? But it does get to be a hurdle some times when I want to use the title of my work place to relate a funny story. So as of today, I am inventing a new work name! Yes, it's true, it is just that special of a day. Aren't you glad you turned on your computer (or phone, or whatever) this morning? It's all worth it now.

So what shall the name be? Two names pop to mind, for obvious reasons. First, Veridian, and second, Initech. Yes, you should all get where those come from. I am thinking Veridian though, for some reason. I guess because I really don't work in IT at all, and Veridian was such a huge company that it could employ just about anyone.

So now that that's out of the way, it's time for *drum roll please* your daily, or weekly, or monthly, or whenever the Hell I feel like it, work slogan!

At Veridian, apathy is just one more way we care.

It's not perfect, I know, but it's been rolling around in my head all week so now that it's out on the blogosphere, maybe it'll stop (rolling, that is).

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Joys of pain

I am currently suffering from The Sirus Infection from Hell, or TSIH for short. Now TSIH has been visiting for almost 2 weeks now, and does not seem inclined to leave even when invited to by antiobiotics. One of the joys of TSIH is that it allows, at most, 3-4 hours of sleep because that's how long it takes for mega doses of ibuprofen to wear off, and when they do it hurts enough that sleep is just not really on your mind. Which is why, dear imaginary readers, I'm blogging to you at 5:22 on a Saturday freaking morning. It takes roughly 45 minutes for massive doses of ibuprofen to work on TSIH enough for me to try to sleep. So who knows how much blogging I can get done just now. It could be, as my daughter would say, epic.

But that's not the point of this post, dear imaginary readers. No, the point of the post is that thanks to TVIH I had nothing better to do, nothing like, oh I don't know, SLEEP to do, this morning, but sit on the computer. And as I was sitting here one of my favorite Gifts of Microsoft popped up. Not the Blue Screen of Death, but the Error Report. MS daily queries me if I want to send it a list of the same goddamn 6 or 7 errors it has encountered since I last turned on my machine to them so they can analyze them to help make their software better. I can guess which errors they are, and if I want to spend about 10 hours on it, I can probably get rid of those errors, by unloading a boatload of software and selectively, carefully, re-installing it in such a way as to avoid the errors. Probably many of the errors involve the bloatware that is the latest edition of Nero Burning ROM, which just kind of Sucks, but that, also, is not the point of this post. Or I could spend just about as much time to do a clean install, which you should do every now and then anyway, but that also is not the point of this post. The point is that I never want to send information to Microsoft because they already have enough goddamn information about me, thank you very much, and I really, really don't think me sending them even more information is going to make their software a little better, especially since they're probably not even maintaining this version anymore. So I get to say no, again and again, to Microsoft and that gets annoying when it just reminds me, again and again, of how something's not working on my damn machine with their damn software.

So this morning, rather than sit and say "ow," I randomly looked up this article, and turned Off the damn error reporting feature, and hopefully now I can just not have to do that. Never mind that I am about 99% sure I had turned it off before, and Windows decided to turn it back on for me (Thank you, Windows). But for now, at least, it should be off. Every TSIH has a silver lining.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Oh, you mean you read that?

This will be a necessarily vague post because, although very few people read these things, and many of those that do read them know me quite well, I still want to at least allude to a degree of anonymity here. I also just took a mandatory course on why I can't say what kind of work I do in an "online social venue" without all sorts of cautions and mandates. (And no, I am not a spy or anything even remotely cool like that - the whole thing is just silly). But anyway, because of this I have vagueified the following (I made a word! Give me a cookie), perhaps to the point of making it incomprehensible. If it is indeed incomprehensible you have my most sincere, Evil Prince Ludwig-style, apple-o-geez.

So now, let the vagueness commence!

I was on a phone call with a guy from out of state who was inviting me to join in a project submission he was working on. He told me the kind of project it was, and what sort of person he was looking to join in the submission, both in terms of skills and also in terms of their bio/vita. On some research submissions you're judged as much by the caliber and specialties of the people on your team as you are on the actual planned project, so it made sense that he was considering these things. It sounded like a neat project, and I wanted to join, but also to be honest. So I told him three things:
  • First, that it sounded like a project that I would like to join in.
  • Second, that on paper I would certainly fit the need he was trying to address, because I had published in that area and was pointing my career in that direction.
  • And third, that while on paper I would be a good fit, in practice I was only a moderate fit because I could think of several people who were much better versed in this particular area than I was. I explained that while this area was an interest of mine, and I was developing a skill set in it and, as I said, publishing in it, I had not been, as many others had, working in this particular area for my entire career or studying it since grad school.
After I had gone through all that he told me that he had read some of my publications and based on what he had read he was sure that I would have a load to offer and that he really wanted me on the project. So part of me was thinking "Wow, he's really desperate here" and another part was like "Gosh, he likes me, he really likes me!" but the biggest part of me was thinking "You mean you actually read that stuff?"

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Proof That Men Are Not The Only Jackasses

I don't even know what to say about this, but sometimes someone is just such a big jerk that you have to point it out and say, "Wow, would you look at that jerk over there? That is some jerk." It's cathartic. And since I work alone I can't nudge someone in the conference room and say, "check out this woman who hasn't grown up since high school!"

I just have one question. What is she the world champion of? (Because jerky as she is, I'm pretty sure someone else holds the World Champion of Jackassery title.)

At least she had the courtesy to post on Gizmodo (an odd choice, to say the least, for a woman who thinks nerdiness is the cardinal sin of dating)--the next time some unsuspecting prospective date Googles the shit out of her, her name will come up with the appropriate warning label affixed to it.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

For Real?

A German etiquette group has forbidden kissing coworkers on the cheek, suggesting that if people are okay with the practice, they announce that with a sign on their desk. (As an aside, I think such signs have a bright future as gag gifts.)

I've been sexually harassed by coworkers in vile and disturbing ways. Not one of the offenders has ever kissed me on the cheek. The only coworkers who kiss me on the cheek are dear friends who are welcome to visit me in my home, who know why I've been in the hospital, and who would--in an alternate universe where women over 40 fall in love and get married--be invited to my wedding.

This is the sort of thing that just boggles my mind. Clearly someone, somewhere is being kissed on the cheek by humans they don't care for in a way that makes them feel icky. If we assume that the offending kissers aren't all hell-bent on making people feel icky, then we have to accept that they're not good at picking up social cues. But the idea that I would just put a piece of paper on my desk indicating that I enjoy being kissed on the cheek by my coworkers really seems like an inadequate solution. I can think of coworkers who shouldn't be allowed to kiss me on the cheek. I have (in the past, not necessarily right now, mind) worked with humans whose kiss would drive me to scour myself with antiseptic in a really hot shower. Do I put a list on my desk? These humans are allowed, these humans are expressly forbidden? Am I allowed to put my boss on the forbidden list (no, no, not you--a theoretical boss). Do I maintain the list on company time?

I'd love to dismiss this as ridiculous. Then again, I'd love to tell you that I'd never worked with a coworker who thought he could "honk" my boobs as a joke. I'd love to tell you that a friend of mine who works at a very decent and progressive company didn't recently attend a meeting where a coworker said, "Give this task to someone in a skirt." And I'd love to tell you that when I watch Mad Men, I never watch them chasing secretaries around the office and think, "maybe we could have done better than just driving this behavior underground where it's harder to catch it." So I guess it's not ridiculous. But I really really wish it were.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

I Would So Have Walked By

If I had known that the location used for Stanley Ford's townhouse was still in existence and so easy to locate, I would totally have stopped to take a gander when I lived in New York.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Just so you know

When I go back and re-read the post on my "moving experience" at work a few months back, I still get mad.

In which Shifter gets a tattoo...

So I know I'm probably in the minority here, but I've never had a tattoo until very, very recently. Back in The Day not having a tattoo was the norm. Very few people had them, and those who did were in circuses, prisons, or biker gangs, and sometimes all 3. But times have changed, and now most people seem to have them by age 8, and to not have one at 39 was threatening to forever cost me 50 cool points. Now granted, I'm already several thousand below zero on cool, so losing another 50 is not perhaps much of a noticeable difference. I mention the loss of 50 cool points here merely to illustrate the ubiquity of tattoos (by the way, ubiquity is a seriously cool word, though not so cool as to give me 50 cool points - quite the opposite).

In any case, I have resisted this mass move towards tattoos for many years. Partly because I couldn't think of anything I wanted but mostly because tattoos are freaking forever, and I have a hard time of thinking of anything that I am going to think is so cool I want it on my body not only now, but also at all future points in my life. When I was 18-20 it would have been a skull, for example. And how glad am I not to have a skull carved into my skin now? Very glad, indeed. But a few weeks back my Beloved asked me if, for our 15th anniversary, I'd get a tattoo with her. She already has a few (being much cooler than I am) and has in fact asked before. I've said no. This time, however, she had a very cool and moving idea in mind for joint tattoos that were representative of our lives together. Two things struck me here. One, I liked the idea and the art and, two, I had already made a far more serious and permanent commitment than a tattoo to this woman 15 years ago. Put in that context it was not such a horrible idea.

So now I do, in fact have a tattoo. It is a crow silhouette and it looks something like this:
I have decided to spare you, dear readers, the sight of my hairy leg with ink etched into it. But this is the image I shamelessly stole off the web and had scratched into my skin. If by this you infer that this was a painful process, you are correct. Not agonizing, surprisingly enough, but painful. The trick is, the pain comes AFTER the tattoo. Nobody told me about that part. Everyone warns you that getting the tattoo hurts, but nobody warns you that afterwards it hurts lots more. After I got mine, my ankle swelled up as if I had an apple under my skin, right beneath the tattoo. And yes, I did follow all the directions about hourly washing and lotion (not too much lotion, mind you!) and so on. By the way, nobody told me about the hourly care routine either! Someone described the aftercare as being important because the tattoo is, essentially, an "open wound" until it heals. An open wound! NOBODY told me about that.

If these small rants lead you to conclude that ol' Shifter is a whiny bastard, you are correct! Not too whiny, though. I am still glad I got it, almost entirely because of the meaning it has between me and my wife. I also think it will look cool when it heals and no longer hurts. For now, looking at it just hurts. So if anyone reading this has NOT gotten a tattoo, please don't be deterred. Just be warned.

It's too late to vote in this, but...

NPR is doing a poll to select the top 100 sci-fi/fantasy books of all time. They had a nomination process where people could submit suggestions, then they paired those down to a few hundred, and then they took votes on those few hundred to get the final top 100. Unfortunately, before I knew the contest was going, it was over. Evidently they forgot just how important I really am and did not send a "Dear Shifter, please please take part in our poll" email! So poo. Nevertheless, the list of finalists is interesting to review, and can be found here. Eventually they'll have results, no doubt, and I'm sure they'll be posted somewhere around here. A quick look at the list shows many titles I have read, a smaller subset that I really love, a larger group I haven't read, and a few I've read and really didn't like all that much (can you say "Drizzt?" I knew you could! And Piers Anthony? Really? I mean fun but top 100 of all time? The Color of Her Panties? Really??). Anyway, I enjoyed looking over the list so thought I'd pass it along for any sci-fi geeks out there who missed it the first time...

Sunday, August 07, 2011

I can't believe my brother does this stuff...

Look at this link for a story about DEF CON, a hacking convention that is attended by professional hackers. It's not a "black hat" hacker convention (i.e., it's not supposed to be for malicious hackers as far as I know) but is attended by computer people who know a lot about hacking. My brother is a computer network security specialist and is attending it this year (as he did the year before). It's amazing and scary how much can be done with technology, and how easy it is to manipulate it. Anyway, not only does my brother attend these things, he's actually won a competition in hacking at one of them. Remind me not to piss him off ;o)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How Can You Miss People You Never See?

Since November I've been working remotely rather than in the room with my team. And I've missed them. I've missed happy hours and lunches and dinners and general quiet moments with them, and it's true that it does bother me from time to time. I can't wait until I'm cleared to travel so that I can go back and get some face time, because I really love my team.

What's really amazing is that since last Thursday I have been out due to major surgery. I'd like to blow it off and not call it major surgery, but the bill was $73,000 and I was in the hospital and I'm not allowed to unload the freaking dishwasher, so I'm gonna go with major surgery. I haven't spoken to my team since Wednesday. And I miss them terribly. They've e-mailed me and things and that's been lovely, but I miss their voices. It's almost to the point where I'd call in to a meeting just to hear them...except that I'd have to get up at 6 a.m., and boredom has me wandering aimlessly around my house until 2 a.m., so that would be a stretch. Also, anticipating the urge to return to work early, I deleted all the meetings off my calendar, because in years of meditating I have accumulated Self Knowledge.

Anyway. I used to work with a remote team all the time at a previous job, and that experience gave me a healthy contempt for people who say you can't have a relationship with someone unless you can look them in their beady little eyes and assess their motivation or whatever. Maybe I'm just crappy at performing those in-person assessments and so I'm less handicapped by being remote. But I think it's far more likely that humans will find ways to interact and build relationships because we're social animals and that's just what we do, as long as we give ourselves the chance to adapt. I've long since taken this adaptability for granted, but today I'm really grateful for it and for the richness it's brought to my life and my daily experience.

I'm also grateful for the ability to rent movies from my Tivo and buy books from my phone. Because seriously? I've never been so bored in all my life. Not even in high school. Shifter, tell your beautiful bride that I am looking back on that period she was on bed rest and retroactively worshiping her, because I have been trapped in my apartment complex for a total of three days and I am going batshit crazy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Good healing vibes to KT

Although I won't disclose details of Katy's life for her, I will invite anyone who happens to pop into the empty space of this blog to send pleasant healing thoughts to Katy for the next few weeks. I am certainly doing so, myself.

Best movie trailer of the decade

I went to see Captain America the other day. Yes, I know, but in my defense I was really drunk. Do you respect me now? No? Now I'm just a drunk? Well in my defense of THAT defense I haven't been drunk in a few months. Happy now? No? Now I'm just a wanna-be alcoholic with no social life? Hmmmm. And, your point?

But anyway, I went to see Captain America. Which was about as good as it sounds. But it had an AWESOME movie trailer. I can't remember the name of the movie. But it was awesome. And it was awesome because of the one part of the trailer that I CAN remember. It was some barbarian movie, you know, a modern day Conan before the illigetimate child thing. And the part I remember is the tagline. Muscles the Barbarian said, with a gloriously long, sligthly greasy hair and a straight face (and I think he should get an Academy award for the straight face) "I live, I love, I slay, and I am content."

I swear I could not write anything that ridiculous even if I tried (and those of you who used to read what I wrote, back when I wrote it, know that I have tried, oh yes, I've tried). I think, personally, that it even beats the best line from Aliens: "Be afraid, be very afraid!" I got a lot of mileage out of that one.

So with that I'll sign off, at peace with the knowledge that, indeed, I live, I love, I slay, and I am content.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Freakin' Adorable

I think it might be impossible to improve on Doug's Techland headline, "Five-Year-Old Invents Impossibly Cute Video Game." The game, 'tis true, is impossibly adorable.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Software No Worky

Today I had one of these days:

My customer and I had to go through a big old Excel list and figure out whether the things that were on the list were on a list in our software application. Then we had to add anything that was in the software application but not on the Excel list into Excel. Then we had to explain everything that didn't match. It was a tedious process, and it made us tired and ornery.

But I work with Erica, the best customer on earth. As we were reviewing the first discrepancy, we found a valid explanation for it. She was delighted.

Erica: Oh my God, you mean it does what it's supposed to do?
Katy: I know, right? Sexy!
Erica: Put that in the spreadsheet. I want to see it in the explanation of the discrepancy. Explain why it happened and then put, "Sexy!"
Katy: Here's another one--look, this isn't a mistake either, but for a different reason.
Erica: That's hot. Put "Hot!" in that one.
Katy: Is that H-O-T or H-A-W-T?
Erica: H-O-T. We don't want to confuse the folks in India.

By the time we got to the end of the spreadsheet we had valid explanations called "Sexy," "Hot," and "A-OK!" And I have to admit that it made the whole process go just a little faster.

I really am lucky that most days, I love my job, and on the days I don't, I really love the people I work with. That's hot!

For Anyone Watching Game of Thrones

Sunday's episode made me think of this Moth story. It must have made someone at the Moth think of it too, because they uploaded it to YouTube today.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tail wags the dog, again

I think that my place of employment is the home, the veritable castle and sanctum sanctorum, of tails wagging dogs. My latest and greatest example is this.

I manage a team of people, and we have a block of offices set aside for our use. Some of the offices are good (as in have windows, and are quite large), and some are bad (as in closets with air conditioning ducts). Through attrition (which has been just wonderful in an environment where I'm not allowed to replace people who leave because the entire facility is over budget - not my section, mind you, just the facility, so rather than cut staff where they ARE overbudget, they don't allow ANYONE to replace lost staff), 3 of the 6 good offices were empty. It seemed just silly to have lots of empty good offices when all our bad offices were filled and people were unhappy. So I spent literally a month organizing which staff were going to move from bad offices to good offices. This was, in and of itself, a pain in the ass and took way longer than it should have, but that is not the purpose of the blog which you are reading.

No, the fun part came when we started to implement the moves. First I was told 1 person simply couldn't move because it would cost too much to move her V-tel equipment, then I was told that she could move, but rather than move her V-tel equipment, we'd simply install NEW V-tel equipment in the new office, then when it came time to implement, I was suddenly told that we would just move the V-tel equipment, because why would we do anything else? (why indeed?). But the really fun part, and the point of this post, is that once they had done this, and were starting the rest of the moves, I suddenly had my boss, and my administrative officer, calling me all in a tizzy because 2 months ago a new policy was started, without anyone telling me or any of the people who regularly deals with line staff who want to, say, move, that moves are simply not allowed anymore. Why would we have such a policy, you ask? Well moves are "too expensive." How expensive, you might wonder? Oh, at least $1,800 per move. And how can that be, you demand? There's a spread sheet. And what might be on that spreadsheet? Well, for one thing, the cost of having, we'll call her "Beth", to come size up the office, decide what will fit, and put in the work orders. That costs just hundreds of dollars. Just how much are we paying Beth, you may further demand? "I don't know," you'd be told. But I'll tell you one thing, Beth must make a HELL of a lot more than boring old program managing me. So have you really looked at this spreadsheet, you might inquire. You would then be met with silence.

So what has really happened here? I'll be you it's something like this. Beth is busy, and possibly lazy or just incompetent, and complains about "all the moves" that she is being told to do. Mind you, moving people is HER JOB, but she feels she is doing too much. So Beth creates "a spreadsheet" showing how expensive a move is, and gets this to my boss's boss's boss, who says "oh my! That's too expensive, let's stop all moves!" And a new policy is born.

Let's think about this for a second now. Just so we're clear. If I was working at Wendy's, and I got tired of making food, and I brought you a spread sheet saying that it cost $200 for me to make a hamburger, because of the time it took me, the ingredients, the cost of keeping the grill hot, legal costs of people suing us for getting fat, etc., would you then conclude that we shouldn't provide any hamburgers? Probably not. Probably you would say one of, or maybe even all, of these things: 1) who they hell are you kidding? Just because you put $200 in a spreadsheet doesn't make it true that it costs $200 to make a burger, 2) you'd better goddamn well find a way to make a hamburger for less than $200 or we'll find someone who can, 3) would it cost less to make a burger if you weren't wasting your evidently quite expensive and limited time making spreadsheets? or 4) well, since you are paid to make hamburgers, and your whole point of existence in this setting is hamburgers, and you've just given me proof you cannot do that economically, your job is now pointless and you're fired.

But in a big enough bureaucracy, when people aren't thinking things through (and it seems NOBODY does this anymore), you instead conclude that you should stop all hamburger production (or in this case office moves). But perhaps because, deep down, you know this is one of the dumbest decisions since they decided to translate "How to learn French" into French, you just don't tell anyone who routinely requests moves. Until they try to move people. You DO tell the supervisors, who dont' tell anyone, again because perhaps they realize they're going to get loads of #$@! for trying to enforce such an idiotic policy. But I think what really gets me is that all of the people who ARE told about this policy just eat it up and parrot it back. They never think to question how it can cost $1,800 to change 1 door sign, switch one phone extension, and provide 1 bin for people to move their stuff from one office to another. They just nod their heads and jump off the damn cliff with the rest of the high paid lemmings.

All of which is fine, until the drag me over the edge with them.

Monday, May 09, 2011


So I'm recovering from not-so-minor surgery, which seems as good a time as any to pick this up again, because a) I'm on vicodin and therefore chock full of wisdom, and b) I've been sitting for four days with my feet up higher than my heart and my back at a 90 degree angle to whatever surface I'm sitting on. For FOUR DAYS. I'm no longer capable of seeing that as a good thing. I'm that kind of bored that causes Bad Willow to kill people.

So here's some of the wisdom I'm chock full of:

1. Drugs really are good. I mean, in all honesty, I've stopped taking them now, because after four days I just don't think I need vicodin anymore. But there's no need to be a hero. Drugs make surgery better.
2. If you need to take a taxi to the ER, don't call the taxi company and say "I need a cab to take me to the ER." That doesn't work. It causes cab companies to say things like, "We don't have any Taxis in Palo Alto." "But you're actually called Palo Alto Cab, right? Where are your taxis if not in Palo Alto?" (The answer to that was a click and a dial tone.) You need to get the cab to come to you, then you need to get IN. Then you need to tell them the address. Unfortunately, the cabbie will probably know right away that you're going to the ER. I had to tell him that I was just going to pick up my car and pay cash in advance before he would drive me there. I don't want to know what horror stories have led to this behavior.
3. Laparoscopy involves pumping you full of gas until you look a lot like a hot air balloon version of yourself. If you have any notice whatsoever of your surgery, invest some of the time in finding a Homer Simpson muumuu to wear in the days following your surgery. Because there are some places you can't go in your XXXL pajamas. I realize food and laundry and cleaning are all important priorities, but trust me on this, the surgery muumuu is a good idea.
4. When you come home as the hot-air-balloon you, there will be pain associated with the gas roaming around in your body. At some point the pain will stop. You might think it's safe to lie down. It's not. Wait longer. Trust me.
5. Much like the drugs, other humans make surgery better. So if, like me, you are a crazy hermit who roams the earth free from any of those pesky entanglements that make being human so damn troublesome, you might want to get a human.
6. No matter how damn butch and tough you are, one human in your life should make a fuss over you. If possible an English person. They really excel at making the exact right amount of fuss without being all embarrassing about it. And of course you're far too tough to need this kind of mollycoddling, but if it makes them feel better then oh, all right.

ANYway, surgery is over, and I'm recovering well. I'm pretty much okay, just a little too easily tired and unable to wear any normal clothes (maybe tomorrow). Work has been tremendously accommodating, including the very nice bloke who did all my work last week so that there wasn't a hellish pile of garbage waiting for me when I logged in today. And it's providing a good opportunity to read some books.

Any Martin fans watching Game of Thrones? What do we think? I'm fairly impressed, but I wasn't all holiest-of-holies about the source material, so I'm interested in whether others are disappointed.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Fitting In

I'm not one of those people who effortlessly fits in everywhere. I had a friend in college whose boyfriend (later husband) was a joiner. You know the type. He was on a rugby team, he was in a jazz band, and he fixed up old cars and was therefore a part of some local community of...erm...old-car-fixers. So everywhere they went, it took Lou approximately fifteen seconds before he had a full social calendar.

I'm not that much of a joiner, so I just have one rule when I move to a new place: "Say yes to everything that doesn't sound life-threatening or illegal." It's sort of like the movie "Yes Man," except that my threshold for fear and discomfort is incredibly low--sort of like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory sitting...wait for it...across the room from his spot!

I break the rule every once in a while, but I do really try hard to keep it up for at least the first six months in a new place. So far in San Francisco the only thing I've said no to was going to the opera (I'm fine with the opera, but it was Wagner, and awesome as Ride of the Valkyries is, I'm not all that thrilled with Wagner).

Saying yes to everything on Long Island meant that I went to a LOT of restaurants. I said no to volleyball (because honestly, those of you who remember me in high school know that volleyball is more likely to burn social bridges than build them for me), but I did try to say yes to all manner of things and the results, while fun, were not necessarily varied or groundbreaking.

Saying yes in San Francisco has had me volunteering at a farm, joining a book club, winning (yes, I said winning) a pub quiz, participating in a scavenger hunt, and joining a supper club to try different restaurants around the bay area. It would also have gotten me to a somewhat terrifying alumni happy hour if I hadn't slept straight through it (whoopsie daisy--working east coast hours on the west coast can be tricky). So far this seems like it was a good move--probably one of the best in my very, very long list of moves.

I'm thinking of making the rule more permanent, because I have tried a lot of new things over the past six months and all of them have been a lot of fun. But eventually it will conflict with the rule I've had to institute at work: "Say no when someone asks for your time unless there is a compelling reason to say yes." (Right up there with, "Is this a meeting where we prepare for a meeting? I'm sorry, I'm afraid I can't do those any more. I have a note from my mother.")

Google is RIGHT HERE. So if you ask me to swing by and talk to them about the ads, you never know, I might say yes.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Is it just me....

Or does this banner from gmail not fill you with excitement?

"Coming soon: Better ads in Gmail.Learn more Hide"

Generally I like Google, and gmail, just bunches. But ads for ads have never really grabbed me, ya know?